Leader: HR clouds must clear

March 11, 2005

Higher education is not an easy field in which to be a human resources manager. Not only is there an unusually diverse range of staff, but many of those in positions of responsibility have been chosen for their questioning, argumentative qualities and may have little interest in, or sympathy with, management. No wonder Mission Critical , the Higher Education Policy Institute's report on HR, is full of examples of frustrated modernisers grappling with backwoods academics. It was compiled from interviews with HR directors.

Eventually, however, there will have to be an accommodation between the HR evangelists and those below what one described as a "thick layer of cloud" separating them from middle managers. Many academics - and staff in other organisations - see HR directors as the enemy; they have the ear of senior management and are at the sharp end of employment issues. But universities and colleges are changing fast, not least in their employment practices.

Professional administrators who buy into the values of higher education can be worth their weight in gold, not only to the institution, but also to staff who may otherwise be the victims of modernisation.

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